I usually have low expectations when picking up a regular ballpoint pen.
Before the point even touches the page, I know the writing experience is going to be less than smooth, and the ink is going to be ‘meh.’ That’s just the nature of ballpoint pens – they’re meant to be inexpensive and adequate, but uninspiring. Plow-horses, not thoroughbreds.
So, the Pentel Vicuna 0.7 mm turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s easily one of the smoothest ballpoints I’ve ever used, and, while not spectacular, the low-viscosity ballpoint ink is certainly more liquid and more vibrant than typical ballpoint paste.
The Vicuna debuted last year and has slowly been spreading to international markets, recently making its arrival at Tiger Pens. Apparently, the initial marketing of the pen indicated that it was targeted at female pen buyers, which doesn’t really track because there is nothing particularly feminine about the pen.
The barrel is a mix of semi-translucent plastic and darker rubber. The plunger mechanism is solid, with little play in its movement. The clip is simple, made of clear plastic. The barrel is slim on the top and flares out midway into the grip, which consists of shallow grooves cut into the rubber.
The overall appearance is sleek, simple and attractive, particularly the blue model. It’s comfortable enough; however, the pen is extremely light, giving it a bit of an insubstantial feel. The refill also seems comparatively small, adding to the sense that this is not a sturdy, long-lasting pen.
According to Pentel, the ink in the Vicuna is a pigment hybrid designed to be thinner than regular oil-based ballpoint ink. As a result, it lays down a slightly wetter line with bolder color than usual – not gel quality appearance, but definitely an improvement over the norm.
(One thing I noticed was that the color intensity seemed to fade slightly as I wrote.)
Writing with the Vicuna produced serviceable ink distribution without a lot of skipping or clumping. It tended to smear more than a straight ballpoint paste would. At one second of drying time, there was significant smudging. The smudging was slight at three seconds and minimal at five seconds.
This is where the Vicuna really impressed me.
Yes, I had to bear down more with the pen than I would with, say, a G2. But, it didn’t require an uncomfortable amount of pressure, and the overall writing experience was smooth, continuous and flowing. There was a clear and discernible difference in the level of friction generated by the Vicuna and a normal ballpoint pen.
On a scale of 1-10, I would put the Vicuna’s smoothness about a 7.
That counts for a lot, as far as I’m concerned.
To me, the number one selling point of a ballpoint pen is the lower cost when compared to gel or liquid ink pens.
People don’t buy them primarily for performance, but because they are cheap and reliable (or reliable enough, anyway). These are pens that can be easily replaced when they stop working. Of course, the tendency to smear less and adhere more easily to some surfaces helps, but it still usually comes down to cost.
And that is where the Vicuna fails…and why, frankly, I just don’t understand the purpose of the Vicuna.
At more than US$2 per pen, they’re overpriced for ballpoints, even refillables, considering that Pentel already offers the much less expensive but still serviceable Superb RT and WOW ballpoints, among others. And the Vicunas don’t perform well enough to compete with any of Pentel’s gel pens – especially when you can buy the far superior Pentel EnerGel-X for less than the cost of a Vicuna.
(By the way, while this pen may be Pentel’s answer to the Uniball Jetstream RT, it isn’t nearly on that level.)
So, as much as I like Pentel pens in general, I can’t recommend the Vicuna. Not at the current price.
If you’re in the market for ballpoints, go with the Zebra Z-Grip instead. Or just step on up to a gel pen.